King Curmudgeon

I hate to say it but I’m not as enlightened about some of the cultural or intellectual icons of years past. Gore Vidal would happen to be one of them. His is a name that has always been dropped as a reference to a certain European style of intellectual capability which many say Americans are incapable of (and that he says repeatedly himself).

Recently he’s been getting a lot of press in the UK. Despite the acclamations he has received he sort of comes off as an arrogant curmudgeon, which may be keeping in the character he has created for himself in the world narrative:

Select quotes:

He rapidly became the leading left-wing critic of American foreign policy. He warned against every war from Vietnam to Iraq, often with extraordinary prescience. At the height of George W Bush’s post-9/11 popularity, he said: “Mark my words – he will leave office the most unpopular President in history.” His essays on this subject are often great flares of truth and anger. His horror at US foreign policy can be summarised in one little scene. In the 1980s, the Sistine Chapel was being restored, and some VIPs were invited to view it on an elevated platform. He spotted that old serial killer Henry Kissinger inspecting the section depicting Hell, and said: “Look, he’s apartment hunting.”

Vidal started preaching his grandfather’s gospel of isolationism. “I am a patriot of the old republic that has slowly vanished during the expansionist years and disappeared completely in 1950 when the National Security State replaced it,” he says. “I want us to go from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy, and restore the constitution. We should leave the world alone, before they make us.”

-from Gore Vidal’s United States of fury

…and from the better profile of the two:

Last year he famously switched allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama during the Democratic nomination process for president. Now, he reveals, he regrets his change of heart. How’s Obama doing? “Dreadfully. I was hopeful. He was the most intelligent person we’ve had in that position for a long time. But he’s inexperienced. He has a total inability to understand military matters. He’s acting as if Afghanistan is the magic talisman: solve that and you solve terrorism.”

America should leave Afghanistan, he says. “We’ve failed in every other aspect of our effort of conquering the Middle East or whatever you want to call it.” The “War on Terror” was “made up”, Vidal says. “The whole thing was PR, just like ‘weapons of mass destruction’. It has wrecked the airline business, which my father founded in the 1930s. He’d be cutting his wrists. Now when you fly you’re both scared to death and bored to death, a most disagreeable combination.”

Gore Vidal: ‘We’ll have a dictatorship soon in the US’


  1. Ian

    Sounds like a real winner. Its funny how one article cites how he’s prescient, then another cites how he made a mistaken prediction.

  2. Jordan

    The first article made me squirm a bit because the writer at times indulged in cutesiness e.g. “For years, thoughts of Trimble still made Vidal tremble.”

  3. Chris

    I love the Kissinger quote. Sounds like something Statler & Waldorf would say.